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Rampant tampering and induction of college football players leaves coaches unsure of best way forward

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Jeff Traylor was about to name names. A Power Five school bully, the UTSA coach says, used a NIL offer in hopes of persuading two of his players to leave the Roadrunners. The players in question had not entered the transfer portal.

All participants will remain anonymous, but Taylor came close to revealing the sources of her frustration only to remain silent.

“You know what the narrative is going to be: ‘Coaches are going to leave. Why can’t the players leave?’ That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying you shouldn’t play with somebody’s kids who aren’t on the portal,” Traylor told CBS Sports.

The UTSA coach’s exasperation took shape a few weeks ago when he posted a tweet asking the NCAA how to report “Power Five schools trying to poach our young talent.”

Whether he got a response from Indianapolis will also remain confidential.

For many, this tweet encapsulates the transactional nature of what recruiting has become.

What was once cheating is now the cost of doing business. The border between ethics and a scholarship offer is blurred as we need glasses.

What Traylor alleged is the commission of an NCAA violation. This is called “inadmissible contact”. The street name is falsified. No need for quotes around this term. It’s so prevalent these days that Traylor isn’t the only one complaining.

Pittsburgh’s Pat Narduzzi is one of the coaches to make accusations of improper inducement.

Last year, Narduzzi made similar charges after losing wide receiver Jordan Addison to USC. Trojans would have been Addison’s likely destination even before he entered the transfer portal.

You might conclude that 99% of coaches wouldn’t go that far with their frustrations, but we’ve seen Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher before. fight in public.

This beef was unseemly, but it exposed the rising stakes of player transfer freedom. Both of these icons are bigger than the schools they work for. They can afford to express their opinions. There were virtually no consequences except public ridicule over a millionaire slap robbery.

Traylor, a Texas high school coach for a quarter of a century, says he will only go so far as to bring the situation to light. He doesn’t want to be “that attention-seeking guy.”

“I would just like to give you the school, the name and let’s get started,” Traylor said. “I just don’t see how. This school knows now, so they walked away from my kids.”

And maybe that’s enough for now, but we all know it’s not long term.

This free-for-all began on July 1, 2021, when the NCAA ceded its power to regulate recruiting. There were so many states with so many NIL laws that the association couldn’t play the legal molestation without getting in the crosshairs.

Now, unscrupulous talent acquisition experts are filling the void. The process has become so refined that coaches don’t even have to be involved.

“It’s hard to name names in our business,” TCU coach Sonny Dykes explained. “That’s the one thing you don’t do. The way it happens…usually it’s not a coach reaching out to a player. It’s [someone else] talk to one of your players. Or her coach calls…or a high school coach.

“It’s kind of like it’s always been, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Even the most honest recruits and their families can be swayed by potential NIL riches. This is part of the recruitment process. Before inquiring about playing time, studies, or quality of life on campus, some may walk into a coach’s office to ask how much they can get. It is legal. It’s business.

Dominic Raiola is an instant witness to culture. His son Dylan — a Phoenix quarterback ranked No. 1 overall for the Class of 2024 — just retired from Ohio State. Dad was a legend in Nebraska and played 14 years in the NFL.

“What do you do with the forgery?” Dominique wondered. “Do you keep the receipts and hand them over and you get a penalty? Then it just becomes a he said, she said.”

That’s part of the reasoning for Traylor not dropping a dime yet. He is concerned not only about the exit of a colleague, but also about opening a crack in the world of recruitment.

UTSA sits somewhere near the bottom of the recruiting food chain where, NIL or not, its top players might be enticed to leave for bigger programs. (The Roadrunners, however, have the No. 2 recruiting class among Group Five programs, No. 54 overall in the 247Sports Composite.)

“My wife said, ‘Why don’t you just call the [offender] on the phone and let him know you know,” Traylor shared. “I said, ‘Baby, would you really call a thief trying to break into your house and let him know you know? gotta do something in between.'”

That Traylor resorted to these kinds of guerrilla tactics compounds the problem.

Sources tell CBS Sports that NCAA officials have appeared before football and basketball coaching conventions asking for help in catching those who come into contact in an inadmissible way. What they get in return is little cooperation.

There is a code of silence in the coaching profession. The mafia call him omerta. So yeah, a lot of it goes back to the coaches themselves for not speaking up. Either it all stays in the coaching fraternity or maybe we need to step in and name some names.

Still, the predation of his players could become so frustrating that Traylor might have to listen to future Power Five offers that come his way. Traylor doesn’t say that, but it was the next evolution of a head coaching career that took off. Obviously Traylor can coach. The Roadrunners have won back-to-back American Conference titles and are 23-5 over the past two seasons.

If an expanded college football playoff was in place, UTSA could have been included in the 2022 field.

A head coach who did not want to be identified expressed the culture this way: “If I gave my source on this one [instance of tampering], it would be a storm, and I just don’t want to do it. I know that sounds very chicken to me.”

The coaches lambasted before making accusations without much evidence. North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye got a NIL offer of $5 million? Truly? From whom? Not entirely true, Maye told ESPN.

“Giving $5 million to a child is a big deal,” said Dominic Raiola, “but [the headline] kind of goes away in a few days.”

There has been speculation that collective bargaining is on the horizon. The school might want, say, a two-year contract from a player in exchange for a cash stipend. (Currently, schools are not allowed to pay NIL benefits directly.)

Federal law has ensured that benefits, including cash, cannot be capped in this situation. It would be a violation of antitrust laws.

This assumes that there remains a student aspect to being a varsity athlete, another place in this discussion where the line becomes blurred. Not much has changed since 1988, when former Notre Dame star Ricky Watters changed his major to architecture because he was in conflict with football.

How long before a star player misses practice for a commercial shoot? How long before his teammates call him?

“The bright side [to NIL] is for those who can actually handle it and focus on the football,” TCU wide receiver Quentin Johnston said. “The downside is people get too caught up in it and don’t perform the way they should.”

The NCAA’s Transformation Committee on Tuesday recommended sweeping changes that included improved medical benefits for late-comer athletes. However, in the same document, he discusses the legal uncertainties of NIL and employment status.

“We just need a clear and stable framework in which to approach [those issues]”The committee said in the document. “Congress is the only entity that can grant that stability.”

In that single sentence, the NCAA acknowledged not only its greatest failure, but also its despair. If Congress is the Alone solution in the compensation debate, we flirt with federal oversight of college sports.

It can’t be addressed in a tweet. But if there was one that got fired, it would be this one: Be careful what you wish for.


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